Dutch expats thrive in North America's flourishing horticulture industry

Thirty years ago a group of Dutch guys settled down in California in order to serve the local flower industry with their expertise on energy shade curtain installation. Many years and projects later, the Total Energy Group has grown from a local service company to one of the most important suppliers of greenhouse technology, installation and supervision on the West Coast.

The Total Energy Group was founded when Peter Stuyt and Bert Neeft decided to move from Holland to California in order to serve growers in and around Carpinteria with their knowledge on greenhouse technology and installation. By then, the fresh cut flower industry in that area was thriving and a lot of local growers used to contact them for their energy, shade and blackout screen installations.

'A small Westland'

"Carpinteria was like a small Westland," explains Total Energy Group's GM Dennis van Alphen, referring to the concentrated glasshouse area in Holland. "The area was full of Dutch and Japanese cut flower and orchid growers that were top of the heap in the burgeoning flower industry. We got many requests for screen installations, and with the expansion of our network our services also expanded; soon we started to take care of heating systems and other energy related technology."

With the local U.S. flower industry under pressure due to fiercer competition from Central and South America, the Total Energy Group started to take a look at new markets as well.

"We began to play a major role as a wholesale supplier of Dutch technology to U.S. greenhouse builders. We add value to their products as we have a lot of in-house knowledge on the local market and its conditions. We know how to serve the U.S. greenhouse industry, and became a link between Holland and North America with dealerships and service activities for companies like Berg Hortimotive, Crone boilers, Vitotherm burners, Zantingh heating supplies, Holland Heater, Philips LEDs, Genap water storage, Priva automation and Mardenkro shading systems.

Because of our licensing as a General Building Contractor, Heating Contractor and Electrical Contractor, we have a large crew with experienced and technically trained people available that can complete the installations responsibly, according to local laws and regulations."

But it's not just plain dealerships for the Total Energy group. "Being just a dealer is not enough for us, we seek to add value to a product by offering product knowledge and extensive service. Otherwise it's just pushing boxes, anyone can do that. This is also why we are not keen on expanding our dealership activities to other brands. We want to maintain the good name we have now in terms of service, and we do not want to lose our focus by having too many activities."

De Gier Drive Systems & Luiten Greenhouses

This plan of action was also the catalyst for the Total Energy Group becoming the exclusive dealer of De Gier Drive Systems in 2012.

"For De Gier we handle all the wholesale activities to North American greenhouse builders. The business is growing every year, driven by the fact that we have a lot of knowledge available on the U.S. market, while still maintaining a short line with the Netherlands."

The same goes for Total Energy's partnership with Luiten Greenhouses. They work closely with Luiten Greenhouses in regards to the sales and installation of the screen systems on the North American market. "This part of the business remains one of our major activities, especially in the last decade when the greenhouse vegetable industry started to rise in the U.S. Plus the parallel growth in the upcoming cannabis industry is providing us with a lot of work, as many structures are retrofitted for cannabis production, a crop that demands a total black out screen system."

For that fast growing industry, the Total Energy Group is the premier supplier on the market with a 100% black out system.

"As we've been working inside U.S. greenhouse structures for 30 years now, we know exactly how to install things. While in Holland it's more simple to install a blackout or energy curtain system as all greenhouse structures are Venlo, over here it's a bit different. There are many types of structures as each greenhouse manufacturer more or less came up with his own design. That is why we have created a system that can be installed inside any type of structure, ensuring that a 100% blackout is created. No other screen installer currently has this available."

The screen systems from Total Energy Group are almost always sold with supervised installation. "It makes no sense to sell a good product if it's not installed properly. That is why we insist that the installation is done by our people, or under our supervision."


Dennis van Alphen, Ruud Schenkels (De Gier Drives Holland), Bert Neeft, Peter Stuyt and Arthur Kroon of Total Energy Group.

According to Van Alphen, the Total Energy Group has plenty of work to do for the coming years; they still have that large and older customer base in the (cut) flower and bedding plant industry, but in addition to this, protected cultivation of edibles is creating more work for them.

Last year for example, the crew was very busy installing the heating systems at SunSelect in Tehachapi, California and welding the buffer boiler tank at Mastronardi in Coldwater, Michigan, to name just a few.

"For the next couple of years there will be plenty of work to do, yet it is our ambition to control our growth and keep doing what we're good at; providing high tech products and solutions with the maximum support and service."


For more information:
Total Energy Group
Dennis van Alphen

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